Be responsive to the needs of your clients. Orange soda anyone?

(Published in Screen Magazine 8/22/12)

In 1989 I unofficially started my sales career.   I was duplicating radio commercials, when my boss asked me to go get fitted for a tuxedo for the next day’s sales event.  I wasn’t sure why he was asking me to do this, I had 1,000 public service announcements to duplicate and ship by the next day.  My boss explained that he wanted me to walk around and act as the host of the office.  “Just be you,” he said.  That was my first taste of sales and how important it is to simply be nice and approachable to the people you work with and want to work with.

Fast forward through six years and a variety of post-production roles at Editel/Chicago before I transitioned my hobby of building client relationships into an official sales representative role.  I only asked for one thing before I started this new job, and that was orange soda.  Yes, orange soda.  I explained to my boss that it was important for me to be responsive.  If a client had a concern about any or all of our services, I wanted to be in a position to address those concerns.  My examples of potential client issues ranged from big things like staffing and technology upgrades to having orange soda in our refrigerator.  I always kept a case of orange soda in my office at Editel as a constant reminder to be responsive to the changing needs of my clients.  Do you need a reminder?  Is it time to buy some orange soda for your business?

The Company Morale Pie Chart

(originally published in Screen Magazine 5/16/12)

Company owners – let me ask you what may seem like odd questions. Would you bring in pie every Friday afternoon if you knew it made your employees happy? Would you buy employee’s T-Shirts emblazoned with dumb sayings like “Friday is Pie-day”, if all that pie camaraderie had a positive impact on company morale?

Is company morale even important these days when many, if not most employees are happy just to have a job at all?

Back in the day (which means something different to everyone, so let’s say mid 90’s), creative shops placed company morale near the top of their priority list. I’m wondering where it ranks now on any company’s priority list, or if it made the list at all.

Believe it or not, some companies (and of course the military) still list “Morale Officer” as an actual job title. I performed a quick search for this elusive “Morale Officer” position on Simply Hired, and my search resulted in zero opportunities. It appears this job function has been eliminated along with many other roles. I did find the word morale included in the essential functions of executive management positions though. Call me crazy, but I’m not sure if a CFO is the person best suited to inspire fun in the workplace. Then again, I know a very talented CFO named Jim Cowhey at Optimus (a Chicago creative services company), who would excel in the capacity of a morale officer, but I digress.

Back in 1992, my official job title was Shipping & Receiving Manager at Editel/Chicago, but it might as well have been Morale Officer. I helped organize our softball team, ran our NCAA pool, set-up and performed on our stage for a variety of events, and a little basketball game I started (with a crumpled up piece of newspaper) grew to become the annual Pig Tournament with a hundred or so clients and staff cheering on the final four competitors.

You see, I believe positive morale in the workplace can be accomplished with something as small as serving pie in the lunchroom on Fridays, to something larger, like taking all of your employees and their families to Hawaii for a week. Thanks Oprah! I had a great time.

There’s no question that a happy employee is a productive employee, but who is in charge of making sure employees are happy?

I think employees should be responsible for about 85% of their own happiness, and the employer should look out for the remaining 15%. Of course, that assumes both parties are relatively normal, respect one another, and enjoy their role in the organization.

 

pie chart

And by enjoy their role in the organization, I mean both the employer and employee should like their job to begin with. For example, when hiring a bookkeeper, I want to make sure that this person loves to reconcile accounts, can’t wait to prepare financial reports, and embraces payroll with an unbridled passion. Once I find this bookkeeper (which is not so easy) I assume that the 85% employee happy quota has been reached. Now all I have to do as the employer is hold up my end of the bargain, and sustain the happiness all around.

In other words, it’s my employee’s job to want to be at work. It’s my job to make sure they want to work for me.

So next time you are driving to the office, stop by and pick up some pie & ice cream. It can make a world of difference in the morale department. I recommend the Whole Foods apple pie. That’s good eatin’.